Warmer days and brilliant bouquets are just around the corner. But for allergy sufferers, springtime is no picnic. Those same joyful changes can also translate into an annual ritual of sneezing, sniffling—and itchy skin. The first step towards finding relief is to identify your place on the rash spectrum, and remember that pollen in the air is just one factor that can trigger skin irritation.
Hay Fever Rash
About 8% of adult Americans get hay fever, but skin rashes that may be related to it often go unnoticed during spates of sneezing, tearing and other annoying symptoms. Hives can result from hay fever. The first symptoms will be itchiness and red patches, or eruptions that look more like welts than bumps, with clearly defined edges. The surface of the skin will appear swollen.
Accompanying a rash, you may also experience below-eye puffiness, and dark circles, known as allergic shiners, may also appear.
While the cause of atopic dermatitis (AD), or eczema, is not clear, it can grow worse from hay fever. More common in infants and young children, AD appears as patches of dry, bumpy skin, especially on the face, scalp, hands and feet, as well as other symptoms including oozy blisters, ear discharge or cracking, and lizard-like skin changes that appear as a result of constant scratching.
Heat and Other Sources of Rash
Besides hay fever, several other factors can make your skin itch. During summer months, watch for heat rashes and exposure to poisonous plants. And don't forget seasonless allergies to body products, cosmetics and/or laundry detergents. In fact, the leading cause of allergic dermatitis is fragrance, which includes plant extracts and essential oils in the risk category as they can also cause potential problems for fragrance-sensitive people.
Unfortunately these rashes can be exacerbated by hay fever, with the primary symptom being generalized itchiness. Add scratching and what started out as itchiness can end up as a full-blown rash.
The Skin Microbiome and Dysbiosis
Common advice points to antihistamines or even steroids for relief, but new research indicates that the important role microbiota plays in keeping skin healthy may eventually offer other solutions.
A study comparing normal skin with diseased skin (as in atopic dermatitis and psoriasis) shows distinct differences in their microbial diversity. Normal skin not only has high microbial diversity, but also displays a great deal of variation from person to person. Dr. Martin Blaser, a leader in the field of microbiome research, identified certain bacterial patterns that seem to be associated with psoriasis. These patterns signal an imbalance in patients' microbial communities—what scientists call dysbiosis.
Microbes in Balance=Healthy Skin
While scientists struggle to help us find ways to restore host-microbiota homeostasis, there are simple lifestyle changes you can do now.
12 Ways to Find Relief
1. Use a gentle cleanser (Gentle Cleanser) at night only.
2. Apply topical microbes. After cleansing, spread on a thin layer of yogurt (preferably a full-fat variety with several different species). Or use Redness Relief, a serum replete with anti-inflammatories in addition to our proprietary pre/probiotic complex.
3. Cool down with green tea sprays. Make your own or use ours, (Mist de Jour) which contains a pre/probiotic complex to help rebalance your skin micro biome.
4. Refresh your diet with fermented foods, as well as prebiotics like psyllium husks to nourish the friendly microbes.
5. Take supplements like B-Complex and probiotics. Microbes help you make vitamins like B and K, which help build your immune system.
6. Avoid heat. Heat rashes are uncomfortable, and scientists are busy investigating links between heat and premature skin aging.
7. If you suffer from hay fever, skip the chamomile; calendula is an excellent alternative.
8. Perfume, whether synthetic or natural (essential oil and/or plant extract-based) is the number-one cause of allergic dermatitis. Look for labels that state “fragrance free” rather than “unscented,” which may still contain a masking scent.
9. Avoid makeup with long lists of synthetic ingredients and D&C colors. Conventional makeup ingredients are still 70-80% derived from petroleum, which can cause irritation.
10. Avoid toners and sprays containing alcohol strip the skin of natural lipids and moisturizing compounds, thus increasing risk of skin irritation.
11. Avoid lanolin, a common cosmetic allergen that often contains sensitizing pesticides.
12. Avoid moisturizers heavily laden with antimicrobial preservatives like parabens and phenoxyethanol.
Season change is unavoidable, but calming irritated skin is not. Heed these tips to help control the discomfort of spring allergies.
And it at all possible, do not stop and smell the flowers.